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Valerie Phillips: Annual Dining Awards more fun and sincere than Academy Awards

SHARE Valerie Phillips: Annual Dining Awards more fun and sincere than Academy Awards

There was another star-studded event this past week that wasn't the Academy Awards.

And frankly, I enjoyed Salt Lake Magazine's annual Dining Awards, held Feb. 20 in the downtown Hilton, more than the Oscars. I think the local chefs and restaurateurs give better acceptance speeches — they're more sincere and heartfelt than those actors who thank a long laundry list of agents, hairdressers and attorneys.

Many of the winners praised their employees, including Tony Caputo of Caputo's Market and Deli, who got a standing ovation and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

"Everyone knows that our staffs make us," he said. "Without our staffs, none of us would be here."

The owner of Q4U, who said he goes only by "T," used his acceptance speech to announce that his barbecue restaurant will reopen in March at 3951 W. 5400 South. (Q4U won for best Comfort Food.)

The Utah Food Bank received a Community Award — as well as a standing ovation — for its efforts to provide 22 million pounds of food every year to the state's hungry.

The last standing ovation of the night went to Takashi Gibo, chef/owner of Takashi, which took both best Japanese and best Salt Lake City Restaurant honors.

Some awards weren't huge surprises. For instance, Royal India, with locations in Bountiful and Sandy, has won for best Indian the past five years in a row.

"But every year it's exciting to get that invitation," owner Emmanuel Shanthakumar told me. "It's a real reward for the work we've done during the year. And if you win, that means you have to make sure to do everything even better in order to win the next year."

Judging was done by local food writer Virginia Rainey; Ted Scheffler, food and wine critic for City Weekly and host of KSL radio's "Sound Bites"; Art Brothman, president of the Wasatch Mountain Food and Wine Society; Vicky Martinez, of Panache Wine Bar; and Beau Jarvis, of the Basic Juice Web site (basicjuice.blogs.com).

Other "best" winners were:

Brunch in Salt Lake City: Grand America

Brunch outside Salt Lake City: Blue Boar Inn, Midway

Quick Eats: Siegfried's Delicatessen

Power Lunch: Bambara

Brew Pub: Squatter's

Chinese: Little World

Mexican: Red Iguana

Indian: Royal India

New American: Bambara

Japanese: Takashi

Italian: Lugano

Middle Eastern: Mazza

Ambience: Log Haven

Southeast Asian: Thai Garden

Reader's Choice: Jean Louis, Park City

Service: Chez Betty, Park City

Comfort Food: Q4U

Undiscovered: Reef's Kitchen, Kimball Junction

New Restaurant: Pine

Food Evangelist: Stephen Rosenberg, Liberty Heights Fresh

Community Award: Utah Food Bank

Wine List: Keith Chan of Monsoon Thai and Bangkok Thai on Main, Park City

Pastry Chef: Romina Rasmussen of Les Madeleines

Chef: Franck Peissel of Franck's

Lifetime Achievement: Tony Caputo

Golden Spoon for Hospitality: Snake Creek Grill, Heber

Southern Utah: Hell's Backbone Grill, Boulder

Northern Utah: Earl's Lodge at Snow Basin

Canyons: Log Haven

Park City: 350 Main Brasserie, Park City

Salt Lake City: Takashi

E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com